Cork City defender and former Ireland international Alan Bennett has announced his retirement from professional football at the age of 39.

Bennett issued a statement this afternoon confirming the news, thanking his family, teammates and coaches who had helped him throughout his career. 

The Corkman both started and finished his career with lengthy spells at his home club, winning league titles during both stints.  

Bennett was a key figure in defence for the Leesiders in their Premier Division triumphs of 2005 and 2017, captaining the side to the League and Cup double in the latter. He was also part of the surprise FAI Cup win over Dundalk in 2016.

In between, he spent eight years in England after signing for Reading in 2007, though he never played for the club, spending loan spells at Southampton and Brentford before signing a full-time deal with the latter in 2009. 

He also played for Wycombe Wanderers, Cheltenham Town and AFC Wimbledon during his time cross-channel before returning to Cork City in 2015. (Bennett spoke at length about his club career both here and in England on the RTÉ Soccer podcast last year.)

Bennett earned two senior Republic of Ireland caps in Ireland's 2007 tour of the United States, featuring in 1-1 draws against Ecuador and Bolivia. 

The FAI Cup win of 2017

He released a statement this afternoon, confirming the news.

"A final goodbye letter to professional football," his statement begins. 

"Firstly, thank you football, you took a country boy from Ballinora and showed him the world. Let him see and experience things that now when he looks back on, he doesn't believe happened to him.

"To my family, I hope I made you proud. It was without doubt my sole focus. We had great days out. As a paradox, I was selfish as a brother and a son. 

"To my wife, thank you. The conversations I wasn’t fully in, the walks I couldn’t go on, the endless foam rolling and ice packs in the freezer. The cancelled events due to a moody manager, the last-minute change of plans. The living to the fixture list and constant uncertainty. It also gave us incredible memories and opportunities, many more of these to come.

"To all my fellow players I defended the same in training and in matches. It was never personal, if you had the ball I wanted it. I wanted to keep a clean sheet. If the ball was to be won, I wanted it. Intercepting, reading, judging, tackling, organising, encouraging and winning. I'll miss competing, laughing and living with you the most. 

"Thank you, staff members, for your time. For one more look at that, one more bit of kit, one more rep, one more trigger point of a muscle, one more ticket, one more pass. To the fans and clubs I represented at Brentford, Wycombe, Cheltenham and Wimbledon. Thank you, I look forward to visiting. Any victories I was happier for you, any losses I carried personally. 

When I signed for Cork City youths in 2000, I told Jerry Harris I wasn’t good enough. That fear drove me my whole career. I grew up and got old as an athlete at Cork City. In 2002, Noelle Feeney got me a cake for my 21st after we lost a cup semi-final. In 2015, fans led by John Kennedy sang me happy birthday after a cup semi-final win. 

"I was proud of the work I did when no one was watching. I was fully present in every training session. Losing hurt as much from the start to the end of my career.

"To football, thank you again. My greatest friend, but also my greatest foe. What an incredible vehicle you are for passions, love, friendship, fitness, health and joy. You broke my heart, created self-doubt, paranoia, fear and mistrust. You also brought me sheer euphoria, freedom and relief. 

"This is what true love does to you. 

"Thanks, Benno." 

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